Four years ago, Jenell Stegall didn’t know what she was going to do when she learned she was pregnant during her junior year in high school.
Today, the Clark Atlanta University sophomore dreams of becoming a lawyer, judge, and owner of a law firm, and she credits Communities in Schools of Atlanta — a nonprofit with a focus on dropout prevention — with putting her life back on track.
“I remember standing in the office of the CIS site coordinator in my school the day I found out I was pregnant — crying and scared,” Stegall said. “I didn’t know if I would graduate. He was able to get me clothes and food for my daughter, help me apply to college and, when I didn’t have money to enroll, pay the tuition.”
CIS was one of four Atlanta nonprofits supported during the Aug. 1 All-Star Day of Service volunteer blitz, hosted by Major League Soccer and Wells Fargo before the All-Star game later that night.
“At Major League Soccer, we are committed to improving the communities where we live and play our games,” said Jan Greenberg, head of MLS WORKS, the community outreach initiative of Major League Soccer. “MLS WORKS All-Star Day of Service is a great example of how we collaborate with Wells Fargo to make a local impact in the host city of the MLS All-Star Game.”
Working to ‘surround kids with a community of support’
At Tri-Cities High School — where the site coordinator who was her lifeline at Towers High School now works — Stegall joined 65 Wells Fargo volunteers, Major League Soccer employees, MLS WORKS Community MVP contest finalists, and MLS legends like Landon Donovan, Cobi Jones, Alexi Lalas, and Dwayne De Rosario to prepare and encase 2,200 tablet computers and assemble 550 backpacks loaded with school supplies.
The recipients: students at the 65 schools in Clayton, DeKalb, and Fulton counties served by CIS.
“Without CIS, I wouldn’t be at college,” Stegall said. “I come back to schools like Tri-Cities and mentor people and volunteer at projects like the All-Star Day of Service so students know CIS really is there for you and a support system you need to get through college and life. I’m an example of that.”
Frank Brown, CEO of Communities in Schools of Atlanta, said Stegall is not alone. Each year, he said, the nonprofit provides intensive academic, health care, and other services to 4,500 students through school-based site coordinators. It also aids nearly 38,000 other children in the community through college fairs, financial assistance, school monitoring, and more, he said.
Since CIS began in Atlanta in 1972, the nonprofit has grown to an organization with chapters in 25 states and Washington, D.C., that support 1.5 million children. In 2017, 92 percent of students CIS served either graduated from high school or earned promotion to the next grade, he said. By the end of the 2021-2022 school year, the goal is more than 95 percent.
“Our mission is simple: to surround kids with a community of support and empower them to stay in school and achieve in life,” Brown said. “It’s about getting kids and breaking down all the barriers that prevent them from becoming successful, whether it’s food or clothes or shelter or glasses or dental work or other medical care. We want taxpayers — not tax burdens. We want homeowners — not renters. We want kids who can come out and start companies and compete in this global economy with anybody.
“These gifts, packed from the heart with love, and the support from Wells Fargo, Major League Soccer, and the community, advance that work and mean so much.”
‘I enjoy giving back to the community’
Stephanie Battoe was glad she took time away from her job as a client service consultant with Wells Fargo Securities to volunteer at Tri-Cities and learn more about CIS.
“I volunteered because I believe strongly that you need the right tools to succeed, and every student needs and deserves that support,” she said. “I was happy to have the opportunity to give back to the community and be part of something bigger than myself. It’s who we are as a company.”
In 2017, Wells Fargo team members volunteered 25,000 hours in Atlanta and gave $3.7 million to nonprofits.
For Leonel Hernandez, volunteering is something he enjoys on a personal and professional level. “I signed up as a volunteer because I enjoy giving back to the community and, as a representative of Wells Fargo, I want to assist whenever I can,” said Hernandez, a business communications consultant with the Customer and Branch Experience team at Wells Fargo. “I enjoyed putting the tablets together, making a lot of new friends, and learning about the work Communities in Schools is doing. It’s an organization I hope to volunteer with again.”
Service by day and soccer by night
After a day of service, it was time for the MLS All-Star game.
During halftime, Adrian Conoboy won the 2018 MLS Works Community MVP award and $25,000 from MLS and Wells Fargo for his nonprofit, We Can Kick It. Inspired by his own fight with cancer, Conoboy started the New York-based nonprofit to provide free soccer programs to children and young adults ages 6-18 affected by cancer.
Wells Fargo’s 2017 Volunteer Service award winner, Jon Cochrane, was there as Conoboy received the Community MVP honor. Manager of a Wells Fargo branch in Bethel, Alaska, Cochrane used his volunteer time to create the Winter House emergency shelter to end exposure-related deaths in the Yup’ik Eskimo community, and earned a trip to the game with the 23 Community MVP award finalists in honor of his volunteerism.
In the end, Juventus beat the Major League Soccer All-Stars 5-3 on penalty kicks, after the game ended in a tie in regulation. But the biggest winners were the organizations that benefited from volunteer efforts throughout the day. In addition to their work at Tri-Cities, volunteers:
- Organized and set up supplies for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta’s art program.
- Sorted and packed food and personal care products at the Atlanta Community Food Bank.
- Landscaped the grounds, sorted donations, and painted a transitional living cottage at Covenant House Georgia, which provides housing and other support for homeless youth.
“It was an incredibly rewarding experience,” Chad Gregory, South Metro Atlanta/West Georgia Region Bank President for Wells Fargo, said of the All-Star Day of Service. “We know we can only be as successful as the local communities we serve, and Wells Fargo’s commitment to supporting communities in Atlanta runs deep.”